One Way to Handle More Students: Build Some States Meet Rising Demand for College by Building New Campuses
Scott Baldauf, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
Summer is usually a time when college campuses around the country enjoy a few, short months of peace and quiet before the hordes of clueless freshmen and jaded seniors return for the fall semester.
But not this summer.
From California to Florida to Virginia, the summer stillness has been replaced by the crack of hammers on wood. Some states - mostly in the burgeoning Sun Belt - are putting millions of dollars into their colleges and universities to meet the exploding demand for higher education. California, for example, is grappling with estimates that 100,000 more students each year will attend its schools between now and 2005. Construction crews are currently rushing to finish a new University of California campus near Fresno, as well as three new campuses for the Cal State system, and a host of community colleges. The building binge will help ease the strain to colleges' creaking facilities, but perhaps more important, it shows an emerging trend on quads and colonnades around the country: a greater focus on the bottom line. * New campuses will offer students more options when choosing colleges, and the increasing number of choices could drive down the escalating costs of tuition. * The need to stay competitive in an expanding market is forcing many college administrators to look at their budgets line by line. Following the lead of the corporate sector, college officials are focusing their resources and canceling less-popular courses, privatizing cafeteria services, and eliminating layers of bureaucracy. But will the streamlining and the expansions be enough to keep college affordable for the majority of Americans? A recent study warns of the drastic nature of the changes needed: If tuitions continue to rise at the current rate, half of the students who qualify for college in 2015 won't be able to afford it. "We are already pricing thousands and thousands of students out of a college education," says Thomas Kean, president of Drew University in Madison, N.J., and co-chair of the private Commission on National Investment in Higher Education, which conducted the study. "Public and private universities have got to show restraint in meaningful ways." THE study, "Breaking the Social Contract: The Fiscal Crisis in Higher Education," makes several recommendations to make college more affordable: Federal and state governments should invest more public funds in higher education. …